'Hardlock' cotton problems persist in some Texas fields as harvest activities continue, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
"The hardlock cotton boll either does not open or only opens slightly, and little lint is captured by a cotton picker or stripper," said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist.
The problem persists among the Brazos bottom and the Blacklands region, according to Morgan. A few field trials at the AgriLife Extension and Texas AgriLife Research plots near College Station have also been affected. And the Upper Gulf Coast region, which is winding down harvest activities, has had the problem as well.
Morgan said he thinks two factors have contributed to the problem this year.
"Late infestations of stinkbugs and excessive rain and cloudy weather as bolls were maturing are likely causes," he explained. "Stink bugs can damage the bolls by piercing the boll to feed on the seeds, and they can also create an entry point for bacteria and/or fungi, and enter the feeding site causing boll rot and stained lint."
The problem came so late during maturity that many producers opted not to spend money on pesticides, which would cut into potential profits. But not all is lost as Texas’ overall cotton crop yield is poised to be one of the best and prices are bullish for the first time in many years, Morgan said.
"From what I have heard, the majority of the cotton growers in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend were quite pleased with their cotton yields," Morgan said. "Also, these regions generally had a good harvest window before the excessive rain from hurricane Hermine. The Upper Gulf Coast, the Brazos Bottom and the Blacklands received a lot of rain from hurricane Hermine that delayed harvest for seven to 10 days and was quite detrimental to cotton quality."
Unfortunately, the Upper Gulf Coast received additional rain following hurricane Hermine and harvest is still ongoing in the region, Morgan said.
"Reports from Extension colleagues in the Rolling Plains and South Rolling Plains (indicate) an average dryland crop and better-than-average irrigated crop," Morgan said. "There are still high expectations for the High Plains cotton crop, both irrigated and dryland, with record yields predicted."
Texas cotton acreage for 2010 is approximately 5.6 million acres with 70-cent cotton, Morgan said.
"We will likely see another significant increase in cotton acreage for 2011 in Texas (possibly greater than 10 percent) and throughout the Cotton Belt, especially if cotton prices hold anywhere near the current level."
In 2009, Texas had 5 million acres in planted cotton, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service.